What is a collection guide?

Our collection guides describe and outline the contents of collections of papers or records held by the Rubenstein Library. Our collections are usually organized by the person, organization, or business who created the materials, not by subject, time, or place. Collection guides are created by archivists at the Rubenstein Library to provide in-depth information about a collection, making it easier for you to find relevant material. You'll find background information on the creator of the collection and an inventory of the collection's contents. You can use this information to help you figure out what parts of a collection are relevant to your research so you don’t have to look through everything in a collection.

What is a collection?

Collections are made up of material that was created, owned, and kept by a particular individual, family, organization, or business. For families or individuals archivists refer to these as their papers; for businesses and organizations archivists call them records. These material help document the life, work, interests, and activities of the creator. Many different types and formats of material can be in a collection including correspondence, diaries, financial and legal documents, ephemera, photographs, and electronic records such as emails or other computer files.

How do I use a collection guide?

Collection guides are a tool to help you determine whether or not there is material that’s relevant to your research in a particular collection. At the beginning of a guide you'll find an introduction to the creator, what types of material the collection contains, what topics are documented, and how the collection is organized. You'll also find information about any restrictions on accessing and using the collection. Most of our collections are open to anyway, but some require special permission. 

The core of a collection guide is an inventory of the collection's contents. Because archival collections can be so large, it isn’t possible for us to list every individual item in a collection. Instead the collection guide describe groupings of materials such as the contents of a folder or a box. Large collections will also be organized in to series, which are larger sections of related material. You might find a series based on the type of the material, such as correspondence, or based on the topic of the material, such as a particular project the creator was involved with.

Collection guides can be quite long, especially if it’s a large collection.  If there’s a particular keyword you’re looking for, you can search the text of the collection guide by using Ctrl+F on your keyboard, or by using the “Search this Collection” box in the top right.